Talk:Coping with the flow of ideas

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Charles Dhewa, 2009/12/8

How can one cope with the overwhelming flow of good ideas on the knowledge highway? Are there some techniques or magic software I can use to identify, read and absorb good ideas, rather than going through everything related to a particular issue?

Sebastiao Mendonça Ferreira

Hi Charles, I am just thinking out loud. What you are talking about is a challenge of our time, and a harder challenge for future generations. Some people believe that knowledge production grows at 20% a year or more, meaning doubling each 4 years or less; much faster than material production that is growing at approximately 4% a year, meaning doubling each 17 years. Most transformative innovations are conceptual, meaning that they are not only the application of a new technology, but the creation of a new concept of theory, product or service. How to assimilate new concepts? The detection of a new concept has the appearance of a dissonance, because it refuses to be digested by the old concepts. It cannot be explained on the light of the old conceptual framework, and frequently it explains the old conceptual framework on the light of its new logic. There are two challenges respect to the knowledge overload:

  1. If you are trying to solve a problem, you will need knowledge that is relevant and useful to the subject.
  2. If you are researching you should not waste time with knowledge that is far from the frontier.

My lateral answer is that the searcher and the methods of searching are key. My hypothesis is that knowledge in an evolving universe is organized around knowledgeable people and institutional agendas. My suggestion is to rely on others people knowledge.

If I am correct, the approach for dealing with these challenges is not a software, but a good social network. (if you have interest on social network supporting innovators with useful knowledge take a look on the role played by the enlightenment in supporting the British industrial revolution, 250 years ago. That experience resulted very inspiring for me).

Ewen Le Borgne

Thank you for the crucial question, Charles, and thank you for your contribution Sebastiao, think louder more often, please. Isn't this question indeed a good link with the other ongoing discussion on where the value of CoPs lies? A CoP is also useful precisely for that: to single out the nuggets among the mud. And various web 2.0 tools can be used in a convincing way to help extract the gems. To me that is one of the values of Twitter for instance - although this depends more on the network you're following than on the tool itself (then again this is the key feature of web 2.0: all about social tools)., slideshare's favourites, blog postings and attachments shared on email lists like KM4DEV are all instances of the same and there are plenty more.

Our challenge so far has been to create spaces for dialogue and to use technology to help us connect our conversations and progressively crack practical problems in a given context. But we can only go up to a certain mile as we are stopped by the lack of context: I don't know what you are precisely looking for until I have been working with you and developing a certain understanding of your personality and personal objectives. And even then I am still far away from what you are really looking for – not least because for part you don't know it yourself: sometimes you just come across new stuff that suddenly makes sense and that you know you can use but you would never have looked for it before.

So other than connecting to people and their information systems and personal information & knowledge management practices, and creating a community of people that know you and what you're doing, I guess we cannot really go much further it seems. But in the near future, the semantic web may also help us filter out information in a way that pays much more respect to the context of our own questions and issues and helps us locate useful information for what we are looking for (caveat: goodbye serendipity?). That will probably go hand in hand with personal networks, as a complimentary way to find relevant information for a given purpose.

Suzanne Rainey

A few years ago, we created a web site to help synthesize good ideas...Now closed, at . It was sort of like a tag cloud, comment space, voting/ranking tool, etc. If anyone would like to talk about using it for these purposes in some new and innovative way, do let me know--We obviously didn't have the answer :) . Forum One Presentation Gallery:

  • Improving the lives of women and girls worldwide:
  • Better systems, better health:

Communicate, collaborate, change the world:

Endro Catur

As part of the offer to manage a creative entrepreneur community (see my previous posting), my responsibility would be including managing the website (now live at, but not yet officially launched). Further, the community wants to develop a mechanism for creative idea management (or so this is the term I currently use), in a way that:

  1. Users can upload their (creative) ideas -> those that try to answer specific problems or wish to address opportunities.
  2. Other users will then vote for the most creative ideas - say each month - and we'll publish the best - or most interesting - ideas and have the idea owner to present in more details - preferably in offline events.
  3. A panel of expert (say, business, creative experts, marketing, etc) will select the best ideas based on business viability and link these ideas to those who are interested to adopt the idea - and then work with the idea owner.

As you know, the above steps are still - guess - ideas because - similar to Charles - we're still looking for best schemes to adopt.

The approach is to 1) trigger as much as (creative) ideas to flow and published in the website 2) refine the ideas based on popularity by other members (thank you Suzanne, I'm actually getting this idea from you, so there might be something that we can work on this?), and - most importantly - 3) link idea owner to idea users, in this case: corporations, organizations or even individuals who will benefit from these ideas and are interested to follow up with the idea owner. Again, they're all still ideas (in my head and some in half-cooked document) so I'll be very grateful for any contributions.

Another issue we need to address is the business model of this idea management tool: are we charging an amount of fee to idea owner and/or the corporation (we have conducted mini survey and some companies are already interested to strengthen their RD team with this)? And another ciritical issue we need to address is IP issues. How do we protect the idea owner from idea theft or piracy? Pheww .. still a lot to go but this is certainly exciting...

Peter Malling

I think that the issue raised is related to the concept of “Open Innovation”, which is coming up rapidly these years, with many big industrial players on the market launching various initiatives, and a number of web platforms to support the management of new ideas. Some interesting platforms, that deal with “challenges” and the possibility for people to submit ideas and solutions to these, are: – which is starting to experiment using semantic web technology to match people and ideas – which is much based around chemical innovations etc., but is pretty well-established in the field.

Barbara Fillip

I suspect we're all struggling with variations of the same problem. I am currently looking at the use of visual displays to facilitate shared understanding. Most of the literature is unfortunately clustered around specific tools (those who came up with Compendium as a tool write about how great the tool is, those who developed CMap Tools produced volumes of papers in support of their specific approach, etc...). I'm starting work on a paper that will explore uses of visual displays / maps to support After-Action-Reviews.

Some of the mapping tools were designed with collaboration in mind while others are better suited for individual use. If you are a "collector" like me, and you love to collect interesting bits of information, resources, links, etc, social bookmarking is only part of the solution. Social bookmarking is the storage space. Mapping tools can be the place to connect things in a way that makes sense to you. Mapping is good for brainstorming, developing ideas, making connections between concepts, keeping track of arguments, keeping track of resources.

The mapping tools can also be very useful in a collaboration context, but that really requires a specific issue / problem / task to collaborate around -- a focus point. For note-taking when I am trying to get a grasp of longer pieces and to deal with the challenges of having multiple "notebooks" (electronic and otherwise), I try to stick to a personal wiki (Tiddlywiki). That allows me to organize notes, draft longer pieces of writing, hyperlink everything.

Things that seem to work for me:

  • hyperlink & tag on the fly: Whatever system you are using, create the links and tags as you see the connections emerge, don't put it off to a later time.
  • identify a focus area: I try to identify a "learning focus" on a regular basis. Sometimes it's related to something I'm doing at work and sometimes it's not. So, for a month or more, I may focus my web browsing/surfing to something reasonably narrow. I collect resources related to that topic (social bookmarking), take some notes (Tiddlywiki), create a map or add to an existing one. This focused approach often leads to the discovering of new topics to explore. This isn't a perfect system at all. It's constantly evolving.